‘There are few parts of the world which possess such magic and mystery as the seas around Scotland…It is a serene yet chaotic landscape in which every isle has a distinct personality. Each is an individual entity with differences so remarkable that the mere crossing of a short stretch of water can be like visiting another continent’. (~Hamish Haswell-Smith, ‘The Scottish Islands’)
Scotland’s Islands are quite simply outstanding in beauty. The inhabited 99 islands can be divided into four main groups – Shetland, Orkney, the Inner Hebrides and Outer Hebrides. The Shetland Isles were actually a province of Norway for over 600 years and traces of this Norwegian heritage can still be found in the modern dialect and traditional fiddle music. Orkney is made up of 70 islands situated 10km from Scotland’s northern tip, and are mainly low lying with a rolling landscape of fields and lochs. The Inner Hebrides are further divided into the Northern and Southern Hebrides, with Skye the largest of the Northern Hebrides and Mull the largest of the South. The Outer Hebrides, including Lewis, Harris and Uist, are also known as the Western Isles and remain at the heart of Gaelic culture.
White sand beaches, awe-inspiring views, fascinating history – what are you waiting for? Here are a few ideas of what you can expect to see and do in Scotland’s Islands this January.
Grinneas nan Eilean, Stornoway, Lewis, 3rd December 2011 – 29th January 2012
An exhibition of the creative talent the Outer Hebrides has to offer.
The Ba, Kirkwall, Orkney, 1st January 2012
Traditional game of street rugby between the Uppies and Downies (depending on where the players live).
Harris Gun Club New Year ‘Eagle Trophy’ Shoot, Harris, 1st January 2012, 12 noon
Non-members are welcome to take part in Clay Target Shooting on New Year’s Day.
Arran Bike Club Night Ride, Arran, 5th January 2012, 5.30pm
Anyone is welcome to join in this evening off-road bike ride.
A Christmas Carol, Mull Theatre, 9th January 2012
An adaptation of the Dickens’ tale – fun for all the family!
Scalloway Fire Festival, Shetland, 13th January 2012, 6.30 – 11.30pm
A torch-lit procession and burning of a galley (traditional Viking vessel).
Up Helly Aa, Lerwick, Shetland, 31st January 2012
Recently featured in Wanderlust Magazine’s top 10 alternative winter festivals, this is Europe’s largest fire festival. It involves ‘guizers’ (dressed up as Vikings) taking part in marches and visitations during the day, with a torch-lit procession in the evening.
Scotland’s Islands are perfect for a whole host of outdoor activities, including wildlife watching, winter walking, and horse riding on an empty Hebridean beach. There are a multitude of incredible attractions to visit, including ancient settlements and museums – make sure you visit the Standing Stones in Lewis, Fingal’s Cave in Mull and Skara Brae in Orkney. For more on archaeological sites and historic attractions, read our post on Places to Embrace Scotland’s History: Part 3.
Why not stay in your own home from home to have a truly authentic experience of these magical islands? Embrace the islands with EmbraceScotland – browse a selection of self-catering in the Inner Isles (including Bute, Rothesay, Mull, Islay and Colonsay), self-catering Outer Hebrides (for Lewis, Harris, Uist), holiday accommodation on Shetland and holiday cottages in Orkney.
Have you visited any of Scotland’s Islands? Are you planning a trip in January? Leave your comments below.